ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

OR: Love is the higher law.

I’m in a summer funk, y’all.

The heat, humidity, and summer reading program account for a lot of this funk. Now that the program is winding down, there is much fretting about the NUMBERS! I am paranoid that my new program for pre-readers has negatively impacted the number of people finishing the program. I stand by my early literacy skills promoting book log, however, and think that there must be another reason for low finishing numbers.

This summer I’ve also been plagued by the New Jersey/Gail Sweet/Revolutionary Voices debacle.

SIGH.

How do I even begin? Since I am lazy, if you’re unaware of what this issue is, please see the links below.

In a nutshell: Gail Sweet, worst library director ever, removed an anthology of queer writings from the library based on the complaint of a grandmother who was systematically seeking to remove books with gay themes from every library in her immediate area of influence. Gail removed the title Revolutionary Voices without following proper procedure, and without making the grandmother fill out the standard reconsideration form.

Oh, and this grandmother? Beverly Marinelli is her name. She belongs to a group that wants to “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001[.]” Let me think….as far as I recall, everybody was SCARED on 9/12. Crying, trembling, awfully scared. You know what, Beverly? I don’t want to feel like that, and I think you’re a pretty terrible person for wanting to take us all back there. We remember 9/11 plenty well, thank you very much. Even the gays! David Levithan, editor and YA author who is also one of those homosexuals that are ruining the world (according to you), was so moved by 9/11 that he WROTE A BOOK ABOUT IT.

Did you write a book, Beverly? Did you create something in the aftermath of all that evil and terror? Did you GIVE something in an attempt to make the world better? NO? You only took something away? You X’d it? You uncreated? Wow, well, good for you. It’s easy to take something away, to remove a book just like the twin towers were removed. Oh, yeah, I went there– I am comparing the removal and destruction of a book to 9/11, y’all! Look at me go! Straight to hell! Or maybe I should say queer to hell. Book banning and terrorism have the same root: the impulse to destroy that which you do not like and do not understand.

Yet, this book banning spree really has nothing to do with the mission of 9/12: “But she said the common association between the complainants is a coincidence and the protests against the book are not part of that project.”

Uh. Okay. If it has nothing to do with 9.12, then why are you wasting your time with it? Why not focus on your task at hand?

Here’s the whole quote:

Ms. Marinelli, the woman who originally contacted Ms. Sweet about the book, was one of a group of people who first brought it to the attention of the RVRHS Board of Education. She acknowledged she and the others are all members of The 912 Project, a group started by conservative pundit Glenn Beck whose purpose is “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001,” according to its website. But she said the common association between the complainants is a coincidence and the protests against the book are not part of that project.

So, not only is grandma a hateful bigot, she can’t even stay on task. You’re never gonna get us back to 9.12 that way, Beverly, at this rate. I’m not sure what offends me more, your obvious hatred of queer people or your utter LAZINESS.

Okay. So Beverly got a bee in her bonnet, wrote to Gail Sweet, Gail Sweet was all, “SURE!” Bang, there goes the book. When she was asked why the book was being removed, Gail Sweet replied simply, “Child pornography.” Yeah, she’s lazy, too. At least when I am lazy, I don’t try and pretend I was “being funny.” I’m just lazy.

“‘I was really being funny, even if it doesn’t sound it,’ she said. ‘Maybe they were ill-advised words, but I’ve learned something: Be careful what you put in e-mail. They were not meant in any way other than being facetious.'” – Gail Sweet

Do you really want a library director who thinks following policies and procedures is funny ha ha laugh time? Oh, yeah, wait, she didn’t follow the procedures fully. She just made an irrational, emotional judgment and got rid of the book.

The worst part was that not only did she remove all copies from the library, she didn’t even want to allow them to be sent to the book sale:

“How can we grab the books so that they never, ever get back into ccirculation (sic). Copies need to totally disappear (as in not a good idea to send copies to the book sale)[.]”

I’m surprised she didn’t have a bonfire and just burn them, and maybe, while she’s at it, the effigy of a gay teenager. Heck, why not just burn a real teenager? I hear they cast a lovely light.

This story has actually been reported on by a variety of publications. I, myself, actually emailed Dan Savage to see if I could get him to rant about it, seeing as his decrying of the Constance McMillan prom issue actually provoked some real change to her school’s attitudes and policies.

(It’s pretty hard to write this, as blinded as I am by rage. It’s also hard to keep out all of the profanity I would like to use.)

Some argue that libraries have this kind of “child pornography” on their shelves, but not the converse–books about reforming gays, or the like. And you know, I don’t agree with that, either. If there’s a reviewed item that speaks to that ideology, add it to your collection for balance. If there is a patron request, and you have the budget, add something even if it is a poorly written, blearily printed chap book. I don’t care if you agree with their views or not, if they pay taxes, it is their library, too, and you’re obligated to provide materials they want to read, however distasteful you find them personally.

So, Gail, what you should have done was keep that well-reviewed, important book on the shelves, and added materials that provided a counterpoint. But that might have involved, oh, I don’t know, SOME WORK. You might have had to look at some REVIEWS. Or asked Beverly for SUGGESTIONS. Instead, like Banning Beverly, you took the easy, lazy way out, and got rid of something.

Doing the hard work of researching in order to add more materials would have made you a good librarian. Instead, you’re a slothful censor who makes terrible jokes, and I hope that someday soon a young person in your family, a nephew or niece or grandchild, comes out to you, and changes your mind about what materials like Revolutionary Voices mean to people like him or her.

Beverly, Gail, I leave you with the eloquent words of Frank Zappa: “May your sh*t come to life and kiss you on the mouth.”

Actual emails exchanged between Gail Sweet and various parties

Safe Libraries

School Library Journal

Fire Gail Sweet!

Tea Cozy‘s Account

Central Jersey.com

The Frisky

Bitch Magazine

TPM Muckraker

Jezebel

Guardian UK

Banned Librarian

The Advocate

American Libraries

Shakesville

Box Turtle Bulletin

Philly.com

story:

OR, You Can’t Have Transliteracy without Literacy.

“So my phone broke so my grandson got this new phone for me, but it didn’t come with a manual or anything and I can’t figure out how to make a call on it….”

“My microsoft word doesn’t look like this one. All I want to do is edit my resume and I can’t even figure out how to open it from my disk.”

“Do you have anything about sign language for babies? My baby keeps moving her hands around and making noises, but I don’t know what she’s saying.”

“I saw it at my friend’s house. It has two girls on it, with blond hair. Or light brown hair. They’re twins. One can see into the future and one can see into the past. The title was in green letters.”

“I did so bring those books back. I went to the bank and then I came here and put them in the drop-off outside. Look for them again!”

Everyone has a story. Every question or interaction we have in a library is rooted in story. There are characters, events, obstacles to be overcome, arcs to be completed, resolutions to be reached. There are comedies, tragedies, and sometimes even gothic tales of horror. We listen to stories from our coworkers and our patrons alike, and the level of skill these storytellers have can greatly influence the tenor of our transactions.

If  a patron’s story is incomprehensible or not compelling, it will harder for us as librarians to participate in the tale. If we are unfamiliar with the new genres of personal storytelling–I’m thinking particularly of the techno-genre, with its vast and quickly changing cast of characters and jargon–we’ll be even further left behind.

If we can’t spin a tale to our managers and directors that convinces them of a need for a new service, program, or material, we suffer as well as our users. Your entire professional life will become a film missing its final reel, or a book with the last ten pages torn out of it. Do you want to live with that amount of frustration and dissatisfaction your entire life? Do you want that for your patrons?

The jump to e-readers, smartphones and iPads is not a harbinger of death for reading; it is, actually, an expansion of the way we can tell and experience stories. Reading is not the only way stories are told. It never has been and never will be. There was oral storytelling and visual storytelling long before humanity created alphabets, writing, and books. Blogs tell stories, twitter feeds tell stories, hell, even the lolcatz tell stories. The story isn’t going anywhere. It’s simply putting on a new dress and dancing to a new tune.

One of the six early literacy skills is something called narrative skills, which means being able to tell or retell a story, and being familiar with the elements of a story–there are characters, events, a beginning, a middle, and an end. We need to remember that even as the scope of our work widens, we can still break it down into small, simple, and easy to understand concepts–and we should. For everyone.

privilege.

Before I begin, a caveat: I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most logical thinker in the world. I go with my gut on most issues. So if any of my arguments seem incredibly simple or even stupid, they just might be. And I am okay with that. Mostly.

After reading a couple of posts by the Annoyed Librarian (Libraries the Meritocracy, Give Them What They Need) I began thinking about privilege, libraries, and how the two intersect and affect the larger world.

From “Give Them What They Want”, which was written in May, so the Annoyed Librarian is well aware of the financial crisis we’re all in right now:

So the question is, do public libraries provide something that’s necessary, but not generally available? Not just nice, but absolutely necessary for the quality of life of people in the community?

Here’s where librarians start talking about Internet access, but I suspect that response doesn’t resonate well with the Americans who both have money and vote, those middle and upper middle who participate most in the political process with their money and their votes.

Why wouldn’t they care? Because, like the majority of Americans, they have Internet access either at home or work or both, and if they didn’t have it, they could afford it if it was a priority. Even a lot of poorer Americans could. How many people without Internet connections have cable television and/or cell phones? Most of them, I bet. And don’t say that even if you can afford an Internet service you still have to buy a computer. To use cable, you still have to buy a television.

Here’s where privilege popped into my head. The tone of this excerpt, and the entire post, implies that the writer has never been poor. I think people hear the word “poor” and they imagine food stamps, welfare, pan handling, bare-foot children in the dirt kind of poor. But there are many kinds of poor. There is a poverty spectrum, if you will. There are the poor who subsist on aid or charity, and there are the working poor, and there are those who have been plunged into unemployment by layoffs or firings or who are no longer solvent because their investments were corrupted.

The working poor can own a television, yes, and they can even subscribe to cable. Do they have the means to pay their bill every month, on time? And how old might their television be? If it is newer, is it being paid for in installments? They probably have cell phones, too, but are they on plans, or do they have pay as you go phones, which sometimes aren’t paid and don’t go? How many of these people juggle their bills each month, deciding which ones to pay now and which ones to put off? How many of these people have their phones, television, and computer because of credit cards that they have run to the limit and can no longer afford to pay? Maybe they do have internet access, but it is only dial-up, and they prefer the faster speeds at the library.

When you lose your job, or you have a job that doesn’t pay enough to cover all of your debts and expenses, life is hard. No, you’re not starving, you’re not homeless–yet–but the stress wears on you. The phone is constantly ringing until finally the phone is shut off. The mailbox is a land mine that you don’t want to go near. As soon as one bill is paid another arrives, or your car breaks down, or your kid gets sick, or you cut your finger open making dinner and you have to decide whether or not the trip to the emergency room is worth it. Even working people with health care, if they are over extended, have to decide whether or not the twenty dollar co-pay is worth it, or if they can even afford that at the moment.

You can’t tell the working poor by looking at them. They can be any age, any race, any gender. You can tell, after a while, who is struggling. The man whose entire family comes with him to the library every day, and every question he has has to do with submitting a resume electronically, or using google maps to map out how far away a job is. The woman whose kids love the library, but can only come sporadically, depending on whether or not their truck is running at any given time. The mother who asks, quietly, after you tell her all about your amazing programming for children, “And how much does it cost?” The relief in her eyes when you say that all library programming  is absolutely free tells you the entire story.

Oh, and another thing about the poor I just remembered. Not only do they not have any money, they usually don’t vote.

That’s from the Annoyed Librarian again, who, per usual, doesn’t bother to provide any sources. Even I, as lazy as I am, will quote a bit from wikipedia:

The most important socioeconomic factor in voter turnout is education. The more educated a person is, the more likely he or she is to vote, even when controlled for other factors such as income and class that are closely associated with education level. Income has some effect independently: wealthier people are more likely to vote, regardless of their educational background. (Voter Turn-out)

Since we can’t reasonably make poor people richer, we have to educate them. Since college is expensive (and not worth the money these days, in my opinion), the library will have to fill in. This was the mission of the first intentionally public library (the Boston Public Library, in 1854, included in its statement of purpose “The future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry“), and everyone from Glenn Beck to Frank Zappa has touted the educational value and necessity of libraries.

So the assumption that poor people can have internet access if they want it is a faulty one. The assumption that they don’t vote is less faulty, but is probably less of a factor than education. If we can provide free education to the working poor or those living in poverty, they will be more likely to vote in ways that might improve their situations. Or they will become more employable, etc.

The Annoyed Librarian’s penultimate paragraph states:

And what is the necessary? This is where choices become very hard. What’s more important for the community? Library staff or library databases? Romance novels or reference books? Librarians have to emphasize what libraries have that most people really need, even if only occasionally, rather than what they want only in good times. [emphasis mine]

Which I take to mean that providing internet access to the working poor isn’t important, or necessary. The job board by the adult reference desk isn’t important. The storytimes that provide important literacy skills and social interaction for children who can’t attend preschool are not important. If upper middle class and rich people don’t need it, it isn’t important. You people, with your debts and your unemployment and your struggles, you’re not important, and you don’t matter, because you don’t vote and since you don’t vote, when the library is on the chopping block those rich people won’t vote for it and you’ll be up shit creek without a paddle.

That is privilege–being able to write off an entire swath of humanity because you’ve deemed them unimportant. It is easy to do with the poor, with immigrants, with children and teens, the elderly, the disabled–if you’re privileged enough, it is easy ignore them, and make them the other, and decide that what they need and what they want isn’t important because it isn’t important to you.

I’m sure any librarian reading this could look through their institution’s policies and find something that discriminates against someone, and asserts some sort of privilege. Most common targets in libraries are teens, and the homeless (lots of libraries adding “hygiene” clauses to their policies). Think about it, and see how it makes you feel. Try to find something about yourself that makes you vulnerable, and think about how you’d feel if there were a policy attacking you for it. Like fat people on Southwest airlines. Or gays in the military. Or gay marriage. Or adopting as a single parent. See how this privilege issue can spiral out of control?

I feel a little ill.

Notes:

I am certainly not attacking the Annoyed Librarian. I’m sure we agree more than we disagree, but I can’t really tell for some reason. There’s something about the tone of the writing that keeps me at a distance so I can never really tell where the writer is coming from, or what it really intends to say.

Some excellent books on the working poor are The Working Poor: Invisible in America and Nickel and Dimed: on (not) Getting by In America.

More librarians need to idolize Frank Zappa.


who’re you calling an oxymoron?

I love this post  by Ryan Deschamps because it expresses so many things that I have thought or felt but haven’t been able to express about librarianship.

Let us look at point number eight:

8.   Accredited Library Schools Do Not Adequately Prepare Students for Library Work

The process for creating ‘professional’ librarians has long been criticized for its lack of relevance to real life library work.    It’s like saying we are great espresso-making experts because we understand the secrets of tea bag design.

It would be pretty easy for anyone to figure out where I went to library school, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say this: my library school experience was sub-par. The librarian who taught my intro course was pulled in at the last minute and spent the semester showing us websites and terrible power-point presentations. In all my following classes,  professors would say, “As you remember from your intro course…” and I would sit there, having absolutely NO CLUE what they were talking about. Out of all the courses I took, only three or four required effort beyond the minimum, and only two felt like actual graduate level coursework.

I must add that I think this is probably true of most graduate schools these days and even most colleges. A bachelor’s degree has really become the new high school diploma, in my opinion. Colleges are strapped for cash and have begun enrolling anyone who can pay the tuition or bring in the federal loan money. I mean, when I think of some of the people I went to college with…hoo doggies.

I think my master’s degree prepared me adequately for many aspects of being a librarian, but I don’t know if it gave me the tools to be an exceptional one. If I were less self-motivated and vainglorious, I think I’d be a pretty mediocre librarian. Frankly, without my background in preschool teaching, it probably would have been harder for me to get my foot in the door at many libraries, since my degree really isn’t all that special in and of itself . Especially since it feels like tons of people who went to my school are staying in the area, inundating the job market to a frightening degree. Couple that with all of the swarms of retiring librarians who got spooked by the economy and decided to not retire, and you’re left with a bunch of graduates with essentially the same credentials all vying for a dwindling number of positions.

We’ve sort of segued nicely into another topic that is dear to my heart–the job search. Specifically, the library world job search. How does one find a job in their chosen profession? What about ye old cover letter and resume? The interview! I’m no expert, but I’ve done quite a few searches in my short career, and I think have some good tips to pass on.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow*.

fondly yours,

Miss Julie

*and by tomorrow I mean, when I get around to it. I will aim for “soon”.

gate hate.

I was fairly late to the twitter game. I didn’t really see much value in it, until I discovered that I could spend most of my time following people and not worry about creating my own content. Now I spend my twitter time enjoying the jarosity of Maureen Johnson and the pictures of food from around the world that Roger Ebert twitpics.

I also find value in the twitter chats such as kidlitchat and yalitchat. The majority of chatters (I believe) are writers of kid and ya lit, along with a smattering of readers and bloggers. I am not sure how many of the chatters are librarians. Sometimes I feel like the only one, but I know I am not.

Occasionally, in the midst of the chatting, a comment will be made about librarians. The comments I notice the most, and try to respond to without getting angry, are the ones that imply librarians have a mission to keep books away from readers instead of giving books to them.*

Librarians love authors and the books they write. If a librarian loves your book, s/he will do everything s/he can to put it in the hands of readers. If those readers love your book, chances are good they will want to buy their own copy. This, I understand, is good for authors. You want people to buy your books, right? So do librarians. We buy as many copies as we can justify. Sometimes the demand is there because of pop culture forces beyond our control or ken; other times, we create that demand by being passionate about books and telling everyone we know to READ THIS BOOK.

This is why I get especially sad and upset when I see authors making comments such as:

Kids may not mind swears, but it’s their parents and librarians who will prob. buy most of the books.

This is a brief comment, tossed out casually, but its implications are vast. It implies that librarians will choose not to buy a book because of its content, regardless of quality (so, most librarians wouldn’t stock Ulysses, I suppose). It implies that librarians are censors. It implies that we are arbiters of taste who only buy books we like. It implies that we cower in fear every time we come across a swear or a nonheteronormative character, because we fear the wrath of a mob of angry parents. This is not true. I will repeat: this is NOT TRUE. Let me present to you one of the articles of the Freedom to Read Statement:

There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

Okay, so that second clause, “to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents”, is a little weird, but what it essentially means is: it’s not our job to tell fourteen year old Johnny he can’t read Stephen King. That last clause, though! Look at that! It’s not our job “to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.” What does that mean? It means, don’t worry about that sex scene or that swear word or that depiction of violence in your book. If it serves the story, if it serves your art, DO IT. A good, honest, ethical librarian will never not  buy a book because of those elements. Will we give the book with the graphic sex scene to every reader? No. Hell no. You give books to readers based on their tastes. You ask, What books have you read recently that you liked? That you didn’t like? What did you like about that book–the characters? The plot? The writing? We suss out what they enjoyed, and we try to match them with something similar.

So if a girl tells me she’s recently read and enjoyed It by Stephen King and Boy-Toy by Barry Lyga, I’d probably suggest she read Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan and Deerskin by Robin McKinley. If she’d told me she loved Nancy Drew and the Princess Diaries, would I still suggest Tender Morsels and Deerskin? Uh, no. I’d have to work a little harder to find books for her, since I don’t read much in that area, but there are tools I can use–Novelist gives out lists of read-alikes, and one can also use goodreads and librarything to find similiar books. I can ask coworkers. I can figure it out. I want to give her books she will enjoy reading just as much as I want the other girl to have books she will enjoy.

Librarians serve the public, and the public is diverse and varied with different tastes, needs and wants. I need to have books (and DVDs and CDs…) that will appeal to goths, to Christians, to Muslims, to struggling readers, to geeks, to skateboarders and knitters…and on and on and on. So I’ll need some books with sex, with swears, with violence and abuse; I’ll need some books with kittens and puppies and unicorns who poop marshmallows; I’ll need some books with romance but no sex.

Where will I get those books? Why, from authors! So, authors, follow your guts and write what they tell you to write, whether that is cozy mysteries full of tea-times and gentle jokes, historical war fiction full of blood and guts, or sex comedies full of scatalogical humor. Because out here in the world, there is a reader for every book, and unless you write that book, that reader will be very sad indeed.

Instead of thinking, “Golly, I’d better not write about gerbil rodeos  because some gerbil rodeo hating LIBRARIAN will get her bun in a twist and censor my book,” think, “I AM SO HAPPY that there are librarians out there who will find the person for me who wants to read my great American novel about gerbil rodeos.”

I will say it one more time, just to be clear: Authors should NEVER censor themselves because they think librarians, and to a lesser extent, teachers, will censor their books. Good librarians do not do that. Some, sadly, do, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Librarians are your friends, and if we are passionate about what you write, no matter the content or genre, we will do our damnedest to get it into the hands of someone who will love it. We buy for our public, not for ourselves (okay, occasionally for ourselves, but we make sure to have a balance).

Love,

your librarian,

Miss Julie

*Many authors know the value of librarians and love them accordingly. One bit of  evidence:

You know, I love librarians. I really love librarians. I love librarians when they crusade not to be stereotyped as librarians. I love librarians when they’re just doing those magic things that librarians do. I love librarians when they’re the only person in a ghost town looking after thousands of books. I love the ALA and am proud to be on one of their posters. —Neil Gaiman

(You should go read the whole post, because he goes on to criticize the ALA president, which is kind of neat).

chicago: the cubs, heroes, and playlists

I don’t care much f or sports. I recently watched a football (rugby? It was Brits; I rooted for Liverpool, per the instructions I was given) game, and I greatly enjoyed myself (the pot of tea I had helped with that), but generally I don’t get excited about sports. If I were to call myself a fan of anything, however, I’d call myself a Cubs fan, in honor of my grandmother Theresa who was one (it would be interesting to see how many Cubs fans are fans because of a family history). Since I lack the fervor of a true fan when it came time to answer Barry’s taunt question, “As a lifelong Red Sox fan, are there any words of hope or comfort I can/should proffer to Cubs fans?” I was stumped.

I decided to ask my coworker, Miss Stephanie, who is a fervent Cubs fan, but all she could say was “THE RED SOX GET EVERYTHING.” Then she hid in the back room for a long time. She’s okay now, though. I think.

Then I sat on it for a long time (I began this post on March 4th), until finally, this morning, I remembered Steve Goodman and his two songs about the Cubs, “Go Cubs Go”, and “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request”. What this tells me about Cubs fans is that it is not about winning (although they’d love to) or losing (which they are tired of), it is about the traditions, the experiences, and the communal joy in rooting for a common cause. Which I suppose is true for any fan of any team, really.

So Barry, there are no words you can offer–Cubs fans already have all the words they need, and set to music, no less.

Another of Barry’s questions was, “If a friend was considering moving to Chicago, what would you tell him/her to seal the deal?”

I wish all of my friends lived in Chicago, because wouldn’t that make life easier for me? But if someone was unsure about whether or not to move, I’d tell them all about the thriving theater scene (there’s a theater company for every man, woman and child in the city), the music scene (there’s a ukulele for every 4 people, and an open mic for every 3), and my god the FOOD. Dieters should not come near or reside in Chicago. The deep dish alone will kill you on sight.

Although, since I am a nice Midwestern folk type person (as many Chicagoans are), I would have to warn my friends about the Cook County sales tax (highest in the country, I believe), the insane parking box situation (75 years worth of money mostly GONE), and the WINTER, omg the WINTER (never ending, brutal, and exacerbates existing stupid parking situations).

On a somewhat relate note, the John Prine song “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore” is a perfect seed song for a playlist to go with Barry’s novel Hero-Type. Anyone have any songs to add?

Still to come….talk of novels turned musicals/plays, and collaboration!

i want to be the frank zappa of librarians.

This list is interesting, if flawed, but what I really enjoyed reading was Tony Buchsbaum’s hijacking of the thread to talk about rating books, censorship, and everyone’s favorite topic,  thinking of the children.

I’m going to shoot my mouth off here and say that I don’t believe that people use ratings. I think they either ignore them completely, or obey them without question. I don’t believe that anyone stops to consider the nuances of TV 14 LV, or R, or any of those well-meaning Tipper Gorey ratings labels. I can’t imagine the discussions of whether ’tis more damaging for a child to see a breast or to see an act of violence.

I have a theory that kids can more easily process sex, violence, and other heavy issues when they are reading. When you are reading, the sex is only as sexy as your imagination can make it; the gore is only as gory as your personal frame of reference. If you keep your ten year old from watching Saw XXVIIV and other films like it, and you lock down the soft-core on the cable, you have a fairly good chance of managing the scope of your child’s frame of reference for quite a while. Yes, your kid will still hear lots and lots of violent and sexy talk from the world at large, and perhaps even hear some sung, but if he doesn’t have a catalog of Tarantino images to draw from in his mind, the worst he can imagine is the worst he can imagine.

Words on a page and words set to a beat are just that–words. Until you give them power, they are powerless. Until you flesh them out, they are only as much or as little as your mind chooses to make of them.

If I were a parent, I’d let my kids read whatever they wanted, and imagine what they could. And what they couldn’t? Well, I can only hope they’d come talk to me about it.

dream: job.

Brian Herzog wrote an amusing post about a dream he had, wherein he chastised a library user for playing Marco Polo too loudly.

Have you ever dreamed about work? When I was still a preschool teacher, I would sometimes dream that somehow all of the children I taught had ended up in my apartment, and why was I sleeping when I was supposed to be watching the children? These days,  I dream about performing kick-ass storytimes, and about the busyness of the after-school rush.

I don’t mind dreaming about my job, because it is my dream job (god what a Carrie Bradshaw sentence. I apologize).  I really can’t imagine what job I’d rather have, outside of girlish fantasies of rockstardom (I totally wanted to be Jem when I was a child). During my first six months at my current position, I described my work situation as “being in the belly of a unicorn that poops rainbows and barfs sunshine.” A little gross, yes, but doesn’t it effectively demonstrate how violently and viscerally happy I am? If not, then let me say more clearly: I love, love, love my job.

My love for my job also leads me to be deeply sad when I come across librarians who have lost their passion for the work, or who never had any to begin with. Often they are older librarians who are unwilling and unready to retire, which would allow  passionate, new librarians (who may or may not be younger; there are many mid-career shifters entering the library field) to take their places.This is damaging in so many ways. The joyless librarians continue to be joyless, and they spread their misery to their coworkers and their library’s users. The enthusiastic librarians-to-be can’t get a job in their profession, so they end up unemployed, or underemployed, and the field is robbed of fresh ideas and people to implement them. The people who are served  by the joyless librarians miss out on exciting and new programs and materials. And on and on and on….

Have you ever worked with anyone who has no passion or joy when it comes to their work? How does that make you feel? Does it change that attitude that you have towards your work?

Or do you have that dream job, where everyone is happy all of the time?

*I heard today that the number of Library School graduates compared to the number of retiring librarians is not good; does anyone have any data to confirm that?

Space…the library frontier

After seeing this post at ohdeedoh (which is a surprisingly good source of ideas for youth librarians), I decided that my ideal childrens’ department would have to have a wall made entire of felt, a wall painted in chalkboard paint, and a wall with magnetized paint (and a wall of lick-able wall-paper, if it weren’t completely impossible and, when you really think about it, rather gross).

I learned about BCPL’s Storyville at the ALA conference in July, and ever since I’ve daydreamed of being able to create such a space at my place of work*. Go poke around their virtual tour; I’ll be patient.

Isn’t it gorgeous? It is a perfect early learning space, and we (Americans) are in desperate need of more spaces like it. According to Early Learning Left Out, 2nd Edition,

[…] per child investments are smallest in the critical birth-to-three years—where brain growth is most rapid—and remain small in the pre-school years in comparison with the school-aged and college-aged years.

Let me rant here for a bit. We spend so much money on EVERYTHING else, and if you read Ghosts from the Nursery, you’ll realize that 0-33 months is the most crucial time in a person’s development, and we hardly invest in it AT ALL (to cite ELLO again, “for every $1.00 invested in a school-aged child, 52.1¢ is invested in a college-aged youth, but only 21.3¢ is invested in a pre-school aged child and 8.9¢ in an infant or toddler.”). 9 cents for infants and toddlers, if you are generous and round up. NINE CENTS. 52 cents for college students who are most likey too hungover to appreciate all of the money being invested in them.  Sorry, but most people are lost causes by the time they reach college. Even middle school is too late to prevent most social, emotional, and intellectual problems, and trying to intervene is pretty much a lost cause as well.

Anyway….

Children of all ages don’t have enough spaces that are FOR THEM. Yes, they are omnipresent in the big box stores and on the plane and on the bus and in the CoffeeShops and at the movies and sometimes even the libraries (usually unattended and running riot, but that is another story for antoher time), but with the exception of that last space, none of those places are good for kids, unless you think it is good for a child to be barraged with STUFF to WANT, loud noises, and the contact high of freshly ground coffee beans. Kids–from infants to high schoolers–need spaces where they can be challenged in appropriate ways, where they can exist safely, both physically and emotionally.

Think of the children, and when you do, imagine them in some awesome, safe spaces…and then think about what you can do to make those spaces a reality.

*I also often chuckle about the use of the name Storyville, but that is because I am a strange person.